This August I spent three weeks in Croatia with my eleven-month-old daughter. This was the first time we had been away from home for so long since she was born and the longest I had been gone from Vegan-friendly Melbourne since I made the decision to go animal-free two years ago.
A notoriously bad packer, I had seriously considered packing my 5kg Vitamix for the vacation – intent on living on smoothies if I had to. I knew that my diet would probably consist of potatoes and bread if I didn’t do something about it and more importantly, what would Valentina eat?
I bought and packed 32 jars of organic baby food (just in case) and it was soon painfully evident somewhere between Thailand and Frankfurt - after trying aimlessly to force mango sweet potato congee down her throat for 6 hours - that the kid just wasn’t going to take it!
I couldn’t blame her. It did taste pretty bad –despite the price tag – and she was so used to hot, home-cooked food that anything out of a tube was an insult.
So, it would seem, I would need to make this a cooking holiday. Somewhere mixed in with the bikinis and the heels were the Melbourne super foods that I had packed that would keep me going.
And so I cooked. I cooked every day for almost two weeks and I fell in love with the real flavours of European fruits and vegetables. Everything was bursting with taste and everything was very much local and in season.
This was a country where there was no organic section at the market – the whole market was organic! And so the journey or learning began.
I learned that Croatians are passionate about their seeds and GMO is OUT. And despite being a very very big meat and fish eating country, they are also passionate about small family run farms and growing their own food. Factory farms simply don’t exist.
I learned that if you are a breastfeeding vegan in these parts it is almost like being a pixie or a mermaid – nice in theory but probably not real. Surely vegetables can’t make milk?
I learned that if you are vegan and you do yoga – you are by association a Buddhist. I learned that Catholics (of which I am one) don’t do either yoga or vegan by way of message from the Pope. No one really could tell me why or what he had against stretching and mung beans?
I learned that if you talk about animals like they have feelings – somehow that goes against Christian teaching and the bible and repeat point above.
I learned that I have a threshold for how long I can talk about veganism. Who knew! That threshold was about 6 days. After that I seriously never wanted to talk about it ever ever again!
I learned that the state rehouses the children of vegetarians – I later heard this isn’t the case but the person telling me was really quite sure of the fact that human services are so concerned for the welfare of these carrot-munching children they are removed from their parents.
I learned I could actually live without my soy lattes and long espressos actually felt better for you somehow.
I learned that I could be really wracked by guilt and worry that I was in fact doing the wrong thing with Valentina. That maybe they were right and maybe there wasn’t enough evidence about life long vegans. I began having nightmares about B12. I caved and gave her an egg one day. She spat most of it out but somehow I felt better.
I learned that no matter how hard it is to be so different that in the end people do admire you for sticking by what you believe in. You admire you.
I learned that there is hope at the end of the tunnel, quite literally at the end of the tunnel on the way to Zagreb airport and en-route to Australia a massive graffiti sign beckoned me. ‘Go Vegan’ it said!
I wasn’t alone after all.
As a trained journalist, former magazine editor and commercial copywriter, Ana Kolembus established Write Connections in 2008, a strategic copywriting and marketing consultancy, connecting together the best writers and marketing strategists to give clients full end-to-end solutions. Ana is a new mother, has been vegan since 2011 and is co-owner of Your Private Chef.
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